In a sit-down video interview, former B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt told DeSmog Canada the Site C dam, proposed for the Peace River, is “a bad idea” and should be abandoned immediately.
Site C, originally projected to cost B.C. ratepayers $5.5 billion, is now estimated to cost $9 billion.
Harcourt said Site C follows a long history of hydro project cost overruns.
“The average overage cost of dams worldwide over the last 70 years have averaged 90 per cent overage. So you can assume Site C is going to cost, probably, $15 billion to $17 billion dollars,” he said.
“I think economically it’s just not going to cut it.”
The crux of Harcourt’s criticism of Site C, a project first proposed in the 1980s, is the lack of growth in electricity demand in the province.
Demand for electricity in B.C. has been flat over the last 11 years, Harcourt said.
“In that sense you don’t need it, there’s not the demand. Economically you’re going to be bankrupting BC Hydro and seriously harming the credit of British Columbia.”
That could deter businesses from operating in B.C., he said, all when there is no need for the power.
The lack of customers for Site C electricity was evidenced in Premier Christy Clark’s suggestion the power could be sold to Alberta to electrify the oilsands.
Harcourt said the idea is similar to the B.C. Liberal’s promise to create a liquefied natural gas empire..
“It’s like the LNG pipe dream,” he said.
“I haven’t heard any expression of interest from the Alberta government and the oilsands industry in doing that. And what would the cost of the transmission line be on top of the $15 billion to $17 billion that the dam would cost?
“It’s a weak version of field of dreams: build it and hope, hope, hope there will be a customer down the line.”
Ongoing construction of Site C should be immediately halted, Harcourt said. “It’s never beyond the point of no return.”
He pointed to an analogous example from the 1960s, when Harcourt was a lawyer for the Chinese community in Vancouver’s Chinatown and Strathcona. At that time there was a plan to build an eight-lane freeway along Stanley Park and through the east side of downtown Vancouver.
“We stopped it cold. But we still had part of it built, the Georgia Viaducts, and now we’re tearing them — at the cost of $200 million — that last part of that really bad idea.”
The Site C dam is 18 months into construction on what is projected to be an eight-year timeline. So far, a worker’s camp has been built and a small section of river valley has been cleared. Ultimately, more than 100 kilometres of river valley, including valuable farmland, will be cleared to make way for the dam’s reservoir.
“It’s not too late,” Harcourt said.
The provincial NDP has vowed to send the dam for an independent review by the B.C. Utilities Commission if elected in May. The B.C. Liberals exempted Site C from a utilities commission review and Premier Christy Clark has vowed to get the project “past the point of no return” before the May 9th election.
Image: Mike Harcourt. Photo: Zack Embree/DeSmog Canada